The hit musical, Wicked, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Besides the clever storyline, amazing score and stellar cast, I believe there’s another reason for the show’s ongoing success: the wicked witch herself.
We could all learn a thing or two from Elphaba, the “wicked” witch whose biggest defect was physical, stretched across her largest organ for all to see. Nothing could conceal her fluorescent green skin.
Elphaba, a passionate and truly well-intentioned character, goes through life ostracized by her peers. Despite the hardest of knocks, Elphaba tries to do the right thing in every act. Even so, the judgment-filled folks in Oz assume the worst, labeling her the most wicked of all.
Most of us are flawed in one way or another. Unlike Elphaba, however, our biggest defects are on the inside. Take Glinda, the popular “good” witch, for instance. Her self-absorption and fears were buried beneath a beautiful, happy mask.
If we aren’t cognizant of our internal defects, or if we justify them in one way or another, they grow, maturing until they are ripe and ready to pop, like a big, juicy pimple.
When the damage is done, hearts wounded and relationships wrecked, our exteriors are still the same. It’s our insides that are tarnished, hard to look at, and, well — green.
Elphaba never intentionally hurt anyone. Most of us aren’t purposeful in that regard, either. But it happened in Wicked, with Fiyero and Boq. It’s happened in my life, too.
While I can’t fake my death and run off with a scarecrow like Elphaba did, I have discovered another means of overcoming the past and beginning anew. It comes from something greater than myself and much greater than any wizard.
I have always known God, but I haven’t always understood his purpose, my purpose or our relationship. And I haven’t always respected his role as “executive director” in my life.
After all, I thought I qualified for the job, but when I command the spotlight and rewrite the script, the show flops and I’m out of work. Weeds grow in my spirit, overcoming the stunning, joyful scenes God set in my life.
Darkness dominates the stage and my fear drives me straight to the nearest trap door — and a dank, dreary dungeon, complete with a fire-breathing dragon.
Fortunately, I survived the latest battle with my inner dragon. When I came to, beaten and bruised, God was there, waiting patiently and lovingly.
I really admire Elphaba. She looked scary, but she was a kind, stand-up gal. She stayed true to herself and her values, and kept her heart clean. A strange twist of fictional fate that makes for a great theater production.
Life is much more complicated. Our flaws don’t wipe off like green makeup. Scrub as we may, we can’t wash away our defects. They are much too powerful, having stained our hearts just as the Wizard’s green elixir tainted Elphaba’s skin.
God can, though.
When I realized I wasn’t alone in that dungeon, I gave God my heart and asked him for forgiveness. I begged him to replace my selfishness and fear with faith, love and compassion. I put him back in his rightful spot, the director’s chair. In return, he cleansed me to the core, leaving my spirit shiny and new.
I held my breath for a moment, hoping he would also erase painful pieces of the past. No such luck. In “Purpose Driven Life,” Dr. Rick Warren says we need to learn from our experiences. We can’t learn from something we’ve forgotten. Thankfully, I’ve also left positive marks in my past. I can learn from those, too.
Suddenly, I’m inspired to sing Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity,” celebrating this newfound freedom and grace.
No magic wand required.